My most popular post (by FAR) is 10 reasons that chest binding sucks balls. And with very good reason – the topic of binding is one that is widely searched and researched and discussed among transguys, genderqueers, androgynes, drag kings and all sorts of female-bodied, masculine-identified people. People always want to know how others do it, which binders are best for their body type, how much they cost, how to get them on/off, how to keep them in place, etc., etc.
So, I decided to create yet another binder-related post with a few of the tips that I’ve discovered on my own over the years and that I have found through my own research. Also, PLEASE feel free to add to this list in the comment section if you have any other tips/tricks that I don’t mention.
WHERE DO YOU GET A BINDER?
There are a LOT of resources out there, and this is something that’s discussed fairly frequently in blogs, LJ and on YouTube.
Probably the two most commonly-used binder companies are:
• Underworks – this is where I buy mine (I use Style 997, the Double-Front Compression Binder – which is definitely a popular option). Typically Underworks is the go-to for large-chested guys, but they seem to have styles to suit just about everyone.
• T-Kingdom – I know a lot of smaller guys prefer T-Kingdom. Personally, I have no experience with them.
There’s also a hand-me-down-type big brother binder program for folks who meet the criteria listed on their site. The restrictions seem to be a LOT more limiting than when I first found it a few years ago.
A lot of times you’ll find transguys on YouTube who do binder give-aways after they have top-surgery – so keep an eye out for those too!
** I ALSO just stumbled across this community on LiveJournal – FTM Garage Sale **
There’s a binder review site here if you have questions regarding specific binders.
WHAT SIZE SHOULD YOU BUY?
Sizing is a matter of personal preference — and maybe a little bit of trial and error.
According to Underworks’ site you should:
…Take a snug measurement under the bust line with a tape measure. Next take another measurement over the fullest part of your chest. Again not too tight but not too loose. Take the average of theses two measurements and apply the result to the scale provided… Each item has a different scale based on the elasticity of the fabric used and the cut of the garment, so please pay attention to the sizing scale for each style.
T-Kingdom’s site suggests going with a larger size, if you find that your measurements fall in-between sizes, so you can adjust and get comfortable with binding.
Typically, guys tend to go with as small as physically possible to fit into… sure, it will give you a flat chest, but it can ALSO cause difficulty breathing and bruised or broken ribs. Binding is NEVER comfortable, but you can certainly be smart about it. I ultimately decided that binding a little looser and wearing baggier clothes was a good compromise. The only times I wish I had a smaller/tighter binder is at the gym – so, I’ll usually wear two.
HOW DO YOU PUT IT ON?
I seriously wish I had a video of me trying to wiggle into my first binder! Uh… on second thought, noooope. I don’t. It probably took me 20 minutes to get into it, and I was close to having a claustrophobia-induced panic attack at least once during the process. I had NO idea what I was doing. I just ripped it out of the package and tried to put it on like a tank-top… which SHOULD work – and does. NOW. Now that I’ve practiced. Now that my binders are broken in and stretched out a bit. BUT…
1. When you first get your binder – especially if it’s one of the tank-top versions from Underworks – you might want to try stepping into the neck and pulling it up from the bottom the first couple of times you put it on. It’s definitely a lot easier to maneuver, and your arms won’t get trapped above your head, rendering you helpless (and breathless) in the midst of binder-trapped-panic.
2. Try coating your torso in baby powder (or Gold Bond if that’s how you roll) – it will make it a lot easier to slide the binder into place.
3. Don’t try to put your binder on while you’re still wet after a shower… it just wont work. Not without an exhausting battle.
4. A lot of guys don’t like wearing the binder directly next to their skin so they’ll put an A-shirt or tank on first. Many who use this method claim it makes it a lot easier to pull the binder onto a shirt, rather than directly onto their body. This would probably help if you’re in a hurry after a shower, for sure!
IS THERE SOMETHING THAT WILL KEEP IT FROM ROLLING UP?
This is definitely MY biggest issue with binding. It sucks, but it seems no matter what your body shape/size, it’s an issue for just about anyone who uses a tank-style binder.
There are a few different methods to deal with it – you might just have to try some of them to see what works for you. A few of the possible solutions I’ve found are:
1. Pulling the binder down over your jeans/belt. Pro: It stays put, for the most part. Cons: It can be visible at the bottom of your shirt and you *do* have to continually pull it back down after sitting/bending.
2. Tucking the binder in-between your boxers and your pants. Pro: it’s hidden under your clothes. Con: It can still roll up UNDER your pants and that can make for an awkward re-positioning moment.
3. Tucking the binder inside of your boxers. Pro: Again, it’s hidden under your clothes and CAN (for some guys) stay put. Con: It can STILL roll up UNDER your boxers/pants and that can make for a REALLY awkward re-positioning moment.
4. Using lotion – AFTER you have the binder on (and tucked into your boxers), put some lotionon your skin under the bottom of the binder. Having that moisture there will help keep it in place.
5. Sewing an extra length of cotton material to the bottom edge of the binder so you can tuck it into your pants. Con: ugh… SEWING.
WHERE SHOULD YOUR CHESTICLES… UH, GO… ?
Haha Again, this kind of comes down to personal preference AND the size of your chest. A lot of times guys will just let them sit wherever they land when the binder is pulled on. I have a large chest, so I try to moved them sort of… out (towards my armpits) and down. Other guys just push them straight down.
HOW SHOULD YOU CLEAN YOUR BINDER?
1. Hand wash or, if you machine wash, use cold water on the gentle cycle.
2. Don’t use bleach. I know it’s tempting if you order white binder – because it WILL NOT stay white… even if you live in the arctic and never, ever sweat. It just won’t. Ideally you’ll eventually own more than one, but chances are – you’re going to be wearing the same binder everyday for awhile… EVERY. DAY. Sooooo, yeah. It won’t be white for long. That’s why I order black! Unfortunately bleach will weaken the elasticity and it will affect the binding. It will also, eventually, cause the longer binders to rip in the back from constantly pulling it down.
3. Air Dry! Machine drying your binder will compromise the integrity of the fabric in the same way as bleach, so do NOT use the dryer. Air dry only — unless you’re okay with those rips.
**note: the longer Underworks binders might rip anyway – especially the black ones, for some reason. I just notice that the first ones that I bought ripped a LOT easier/faster if I dried or bleached them**
HOW OFTEN DO YOU WASH YOUR BINDER?
Thankfully I have a few in rotation now, so they get washed twice a week or so. When I bought my first one I would have to wear it all week and then wash it on the weekend when I could be home (and binder-less) long enough to wash and dry them. UNFORTUNATELY, that’s how I learned (the hard way) about not putting them in the dryer… It didn’t take long for me to realize that I needed more than one if I didn’t want to find myself stranded and waiting for my binder to air dry – OR wearing the same, stinky binder for a month… Ew.
Okay, I think that’s about all I’ve got… A large part of binding is just matter of personal preference and trying different things to see what works for YOU. I’m hoping that if anyone has any additional thoughts or ideas they’ll post them in the comments!